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Wendy MacGregor -- June 2002 -- Walt Disney World (Offsite, Hilton, ALL) / Disney Cruise Trip

28th June 2002 - 23rd July 2002

Thursday 27th June - Wednesday 24th July


  • Me, Wendy, 32/33 High School teacher from Aberdeen, Scotland
  • Mum, Doreen, 68 - going through her second childhood!

This was a much looked forward to vacation. It's been a stressful year in more ways than one and some days only the thoughts of this kept me going. My colleagues know better than to ask if I am going on vacation so I don't like to disappoint them. This was also the chance for me to meet up with my dear e friend Barbara. We started emailing each other last year and speak almost every day. She has helped me through some difficult times and we were so looking forward to meeting up.

We got Annual Passes last year so there isn't the compulsion to stay all day and do commando type touring - our aim is to relax - something I am not very good at.

For the first time I had to go into work on the Thursday morning - usually I fly off first thing. So I would like to say I worked really hard but I didn't - instead I phoned a few friends and did some planning. Finally at 12.15 I was able to leave. I went home to finish my packing and we left at 2.45. We reached the car park at 5.15 and were at the airport by 5.45 - only 3 hours early!! After a meal we boarded the plane and arrived in Heathrow at 10pm. I had got the Heathrow Park on Priceline for £40 and took a taxi to get there - it was double the price of the Heathrow Hoppa but so worth it.

Friday 28th

We were up at 4.30am, got a taxi and were all checked in by 5.45am for our 8.00am flight to Dulles. I was using my United air miles for these flights so all I had to pay was £130 in taxes for the 2 of us. We had breakfast at Chez Gerard's and then shopped in Duty Free. On board I watched The Shipping News, Enigma and Dragonfly. We reached Dulles at 11.45am. made the connecting flight easily as did our luggage and arrived in Orlando at 3.05pm. We picked up our hire car from Avis and reached our timeshare at Westgate Lakes at about 5pm. We were finally shown to our villa by about 6pm. For this week I had a studio which was great for the 2 of us - it had a huge balcony as well as the usual other amenities. We grabbed a bite to eat from Chick-fil A before getting ready to meet Barbara and Jim. Now I knew exactly how to get there until I realised that our usual exit onto I-4 was closed. So an easy 15 min journey to Orange Lakes took 1 hour. Barbara and Jim were waiting for us and it was as if we had known each other forever. We spent hours talking and also met their daughter Mandy and her boyfriend Jason.

We went back to the timeshare and did some unpacking before collapsing into bed.

Sat 29th

I was up at 6am - due to the time differences - never up that early normally. I went for a walk round the complex and bought a muffin and some milk for coffee. After a quick breakfast we were at MGM by 8.45am - despite me telling Barbara that we weren't going to a park that day but were going to take it easy! We did Tower of terror together and then I did Rock n Roll 3 times while mum went to One man's dream. We had a 2nd breakfast at Starring Rolls. We then took the boat across to the Dolphin where we had lunch at the Fountain - love the DC 20% discount. I also went to the Cruise desk to get directions to the Port.

It was then off to Wal-Mart for supplies - 48 bottles of water for $5, sodas and beer as well as wine for the cruise which we never opened! Back at the timeshare we went for a quick swim before getting ready to meet Barbara and Jim at AKL. Mum and I love the Lodge and wanted to show it to Barbara and Jim. We had a lovely meal at Boma - how can I eat so much and then a walk round the lodge to digest all the food. After making arrangements for the next day we returned home.

Sun 30th

We were at the Magic Kingdom by 9am (after the toilet flooded the bathroom) and we had ridden Big Thunder 3 times by 9.20am. we then did Aladdin's Magic Carpet ride and Pirates before it was time to meet our friends. All 4 of us have been to MK many times so it was fun just to take it easy. We did timekeeper, TTA, Carousel of Progress, Buzz, Small World, Haunted Mansions and Winnie the Pooh making full use of fast passes. After this it was only about 1pm but Jim could see black clouds in the distant so we went back to their motor home in Fort Wilderness - thank goodness we left when we did as we just made it to the boat before the heavens opened. We waded our way to their RV - we were in stitches and soaked!! Mum lent mum a pair of dungarees - she has never worn a pair in her life!

We had a great lunch, watched the final of the World Cup and chatted for hours. Finally there was a slight let up in the rain so Barbara took us back to our car. It was nice meeting up with such wonderful people and it was a highlight of our vacation meeting them.

We finished the day off with take out from Popeye's and a lazy night in front of the telly, in between drying clothes and trying to put the fridge door back on.!

Mon 1st July

Happy Canada Day! We phoned for an engineer to come and see to our various problems and they were all promptly dealt with. I swam 10 lengths and we were at Epcot by 10.30am. We did the new Figment ride and then found the Annual Pass Lounge - what a tremendous place. We chatted to a lot of people and just relaxed. When we entered the people in front had asked about the special arrangements for Illuminations - now I knew about the reserved seating for Shockwave but not about this - what a great thing! So we signed up for both of those. I had made PS's for Le Cellier, we had never been there - what we had been missing out on. I think we took our servers aback by knowing about Canada Day. On their recommendation I had a Lebatts Blue with the steak sandwich - the breadsticks were great.

Using the International Gateway we took a boat to Boardwalk and then a bus to Downtown Disney. We shopped and then had an ice-cream sundae at Ghiradelli's. We took a bus to the Swan and then the boat back to Epcot. Shockwave was unbelievable as were the reserved seats. After a relaxing stroll around we went to Italy for the reserved view of Illuminations - almost as good a view as we got from the cruise we took a few years ago. On the way back to the timeshare we stopped at Wendy's.

Tues 2nd

After a morning swim we headed to K Mart. Then it was on to the Mercado to see the Titanic Exhibition. It was very interesting but I was glad we had the BOGO free voucher from the Ent Book. Lunch from the Sandwich Gallery then off to the Orlando Premium Outlets - these are our favourite outlets. We were just about finished when the heavens opened again but at least we didn't get our purchases wet. I have lost a lot off weight this year - 1 benefit of all the stress - so I have to refill my wardrobe!

Tonight we were treating ourselves to a meal at Ronnie's. It was lovely but very expensive. We returned to the timeshare and wrote some postcards.

Wed 3rd

After a swim we met our rep, Luis. I had no intention of upgrading but got too good a deal to resist. We went to the Belz Malls and had a Chinese from the food court and bought Subs to take back. After a swim we did some packing. I checked my emails and bought a brownie and ice-cream.

Thurs 4th

Independence Day

We were at Epcot by 9.30am and did Test Track in the single riders line and got fast passes for later. Then did Body wars and after breakfast at the Land I headed up to the lounge to get seats for Shockwave and Illuminations. We then did Living Seas, Figment, Honey I shrunk the audience and Test track. We used our fast passes but from now on we will do the single riders line as it took almost 40 minutes to get on the ride. We just made it to Canada before the rain came so we went back to Le Cellier. This time I had the sweet potato ravioli and mum had the crab cakes. We then went back to Future World and did Cranium Command and Universe of Energy. We took the boat to Germany and had funnel cake in America. We watched Shockwave and saw people with wristbands. Turns out they changed the policy for the reserved places for Illuminations and despite the fact we had our names on the list we were too later to get wristbands. Oh well.

We then had a meal at Teppanyaki - it was good but our chef wasn't that entertaining. Rather than stand in the crowds we decided to head back to the timeshare - we had had a good day and didn't mind missing the fire works.

Fri 5th

We checked out of Westgate and had breakfast at the Waffle House. We then checked into the Hilton at Downtown Disney. I got this through Priceline so it was a real bargain. Our room was ready so after changing we headed down to the pool to relax. We had a great poolside lunch and then up for a nap. In the evening we took the bus to Downtown Disney - definitely it would have been quicker to walk. We had an amazing meal at House of Blues - the steak was so tender. We walked back to the hotel via the Marketplace.

Sat 6th

We left the Hilton at about 9.15am and only made 1 wrong turn. We were at the port by 10.30 and dropped off the luggage. The first view of the ship is always awe inspiring. We returned the car to Avis and because we had no luggage easily got the shuttle bus back to the ship. We started chatting to the two gentlemen on the bus and it turns out 1 of them was stormkrow! I had told mum all about somebody organising a vow renewal on our cruise and here we were speaking to him. We met him and his wife on deck 7 aft on Sunday - they are wonderful people and we were glad they enjoyed the ceremony. I just hope I marry somebody as romantic - or as my sister would say just hope you marry somebody! We checked in very easily and stood in line ready to board chatting to people. We were onboard by 12.30 and they announced our names and where we came from. Well did the young photographer not come up to us and ask where in Scotland we were from - she was also from Aberdeen and lives 10 minutes from us. We chatted later on the week and she even knows some of my ex pupils!! I took mum to the buffet and then went to Palos. I was 3rd in line and easily got my reservations. I then went back to the buffet and had some lunch before we headed to the stateroom. It was the same category as last year but actually seemed bigger. We met out stateroom attendant - Claude from the Bahamas and he was charming. Our Castaway club gift of a beach towel was lying on the bed. We unpacked our carry ons and headed up to the pools for a cocktail. We had already signed mum up for the rainforest room but as we were having cocktails she announced she fancied a manicure - of course by this point there were few times left and the time she took we later realised clashed with the Castaway Club party so it finally had to be made for later in the week.

I then decided to go for a swim before the lifeboat drill. This was easy and then we did some more unpacking before the sail away party which we enjoyed with some Bon Voyage cocktails.

After the welcome aboard variety show we got changed for dinner. We had a different dining rotation and anxiously awaited our dining companions. They were 10 minutes late which added to our anxieties. Our servers were lovely though - David from England and Anita from Croatia. The head server was Christofe who used to be in charge of Palos - he even remembered us from last year. Last year we thought him rather aloof but he couldn't be nicer this year. Eventually our table mates as Amanda called us turned up. We shouldn't have worried as they were a delightful family from Oklahoma Amanda (11), Boo (6) Bob and Dee Dee. We started off in Parrot Cay with a lovely meal - our servers eager to please. The children loved the banana bread.

I think I finished the evening off with a stroll up on deck before crashing out. Well that was the plan but I remembered we would need some small change for tips for room service and went to the safe - well would it not open. Turns out my key was demagnetised so I had to get somebody up to open it!

Sun 7th

My 33rd Birthday

We woke up to a call telling us our room service breakfast was coming and we enjoyed that before having a stroll on deck 4. I went to the church service at Offbeat while mum went to the rainforest room.

Then we celebrated my birthday with a champagne brunch at Palos with a wonderful view of us docking at Key West. We ate ourselves silly - I had a goats cheese and sun dried tomato omelette and mum had pancakes. We then got ready for Key West. Mum went parasailing and I went along for the ride. She had a great time and we got a great view of the island and the ship. After a quick shower it was back to sight see. We had a great time on Duvall Street and had drinks at Rick's and Fat Tuesdays and I got a henna tattoo on my wrist which unfortunately has faded. We went back but not before buying some key lime pie and had room service and then headed out for the sunset celebration at Mallory square. It was great fun although there were some suspicious characters hanging around. There was a bagpipe player, a guy juggling cats, fire eaters and stalls. We actually went back to the ship to view the sunset with cocktails before having our meal at Lumiere's. I was presented with a card from the characters and a cake as well as being serenaded - a great way to celebrate my birthday.

Mon 8th

Day at Sea

Another room service breakfast - it is a wonderful way to wake up! While mum went to the rainforest room and the shopping talk I went to the Dazzling deserts talk. I had done the Art of Entertaining series on the last cruise when Corey had been the chef "why, because it is expensive and I'm not paying!" and he was excellent. This chef wasn't as good but it was interesting. He made a caramel flan which we all got to taste as well as some champagne. It was too hot to sit on deck so I grabbed a boo and went to the Promenade Lounge - a mimosa helped complete the scene!

We had the Asian buffet at Parrot Cay. I went to the Behind the Scenes tour and even got to stand on the stage and then I went for a swim. It was then time for the Castaway Club Reception. There were some lovely nibbles and cocktails. The captain made a nice speech and he and some of the other officers came round to chat.

It was time to get changed for formal night - I was lucky enough to have been asked to be a bridesmaid last year and the bride wanted us to have dresses that we could use again so this was the perfect opportunity. We went to Hercules and then to Sessions which we had never been to before. We had marvellous martinis - shaken not stirred and then went to Animator's Palate - the baked tomatoes were awesome. I went to the sock hop for a short while and then we finished off the evening by going to the desert buffet in Lumiere's - more chocolate!

Tues 8th

Grand Cayman

This was an early start as we had to tender but it was very efficient. We ordered room service breakfast for 7am and were at the theatre by 7.40am and got on the 3rd tender by 8am. From the tender I could see where we were going to and could see we could easily walk it. We were at Captain Marvin's by 8.15am. They were just as friendly in real life as they had been by email. We didn't see Ruth as she was on vacation but they were all great. I cannot recommend them enough. They offered to watch our bags while we went for a coffee at the English bakery down the road. It was such a nice place - they even put chocolate hearts on the cappuccino.

Mo took us in his taxi to the dock - so we got to see some of the island. Marlin and Le mar were our guides and were excellent- there were about 20 of us on the boat. There were 3 snorkelling stops and iced water and fruit juice were always available. The final stop was at the sting city sandbar. This was where fishermen used to clean the fish so stingrays used to come for the food. We got the opportunity to hold them, feed them and some people even kissed them! They feel like velvet and nobody got stung. I was so glad we did this on our own as some of the other boats were packed - our guides were able to help us.

On the trip back I felt rather ropey, slight sea sickness so I took it easy once we reached Georgetown. We went to the Wreckers pub and mum ad some lunch - I just had a soft drink! We shopped our way back to the ship, sampling lots of rum cake and fudge. We had a drink at Hard rock - I had stingray beer which is a dark beer and then took the tender back to the ship. Like others said they made this so painless and there was always officers overseeing everything.

We ordered room service and then went to the Cinco de Mayo deck party and had the 2 for 1 margaritas. I went to see Return to Neverland and mum went to the rainforest room. It was then time for Palos which was excellent as always. I had a strawberry salad appetizer, fillet of beef and the soufflé.

Wed 10th


After another room service breakfast - can't you tell we love this aspect of the cruise! We got ready for the beach. I had toyed with the Tulum ruins but decided it was too long a day. So after research on the internet I opted for Mr Sancho's beach. This was an excellent choice. We were off the ship by 10.15am and after walking through the shopping mall - far cleaner than I was expecting- we got a taxi. This cost $15 for both of us and the driver was nice and friendly. This beach was just beyond Play del Sol beach but I am sure it wasn't as crowded. To get to the beach you walk past some small shops, the beach is clean and there are lots of chairs and loungers. We set up camp at a table near the bar and we had our own waiter. He watched our stuff although there were lockers. The sea was gorgeous and the bar had swings instead of seats. We had lunch of nachos, dips, wings, ribs and some wonderful Papaya Mahi's and of course Sol beer. For the whole4 hours we were there it only cost us $30. The rest rooms were spotless and there were outdoor and indoor showers.

When we left there were plenty of taxis and we took one back to the main town for $15. We again shopped our way back to the ship - wonderful silver jewellery. We had a drink at Adobe's - I looked into Carlos and Charlie's but decided that I had enough to drink at that point. Again we had room service before we went to see Lilo and Stitch which was hilarious.

Tonight was Mexicalifragi....... deck party so we get decked out into island gear. It was a blast and there was a great Mexican buffet. I haven't said much about our servers but they were excellent. They were so good with the children even cutting their food with them and getting more cherries with them but they were also great with the adults, never rushing us.

Thurs 11th

Day at Sea

Today was our character breakfast at Parrot Cay - it was fun but the photographer didn't seem to think that adults like mum and I would like our photos taken - however we enjoyed watching the children interacting with them. Again mum and I went our separate ways but we were going to meet up for the Q & A session with the Walt Disney Theatre cast. This was very interesting and there was only 10 of us plus the cast. We had decided on Lumiere's for lunch and this is when we got to meet last year's server - Juliano. Mum was sure she had seen him in the distance on the Sat but because we were on a different restaurant rotation we hadn't seen him again. Well today she spotted him and she went up to speak to him - so unlike her. It took him a moment but he remembered us.

I watched the adult pool games for a while - I thought they were a hoot and John is hilarious. Then while Mum was having her manicure I booked next year's cruise. Mary Jo is a cutey and she agreed to help keep it a secret. The $200 stateroom credit was to good to pass up.

Tonight was the Captain's Gala so we went along for the cocktail reception -Mai Tais and Cosmopolitans - and to see everybody dressed up. Disney Dreams was excellent as ever and then I went to Dan Riley's show. His songs were hilarious but I was disappointed that so much of his later adult show was the same. The Captain's Gala menu at Animator's Palate was lovely - ate too much as usual. We both had a riot at the 70's time warp disco.

Fri 12th

Castaway Cay

We docked early and had a lovely view of the island as we ate breakfast at Lumiere's. we got off by 9.45am and set up camp at the family beach. We went for a swim before it got to crowded and then went for a walk to the shops and then to Heads up Bar for a konk cooler. By this time it was time for Cookies BBQ - we loved the frozen yoghurt. Then we took the tram to Serenity bay. Last year because of the tides it was quite a steep slope in to the water but this year it was just perfect. In fact if we had known it was so good this year we would have gone straight there. There were a lot of jelly fish stings at the family beach this year. At the adult area it is had to believe all the crowds are so close by. We had to have a drink at Castaway Air Bar - I think I drank as much this vacation as I have all year!

I went to the disembarkation talk while mum went to the spa and I stayed to watch the Children's farewell show - I was in tears and I didn't know any of them! I think the counsellors deserve a medal - the children behave so much better for them than their own parents. After the final variety show - Rich Purpura is a scream it was time for It's a Small World menu. I love the waistcoats the servers wear and the final flag waving. We had small gifts for everybody - for David a bottle of Glenfiddich - we didn't think it would be for somebody so close by!, for Christophe a calendar and Anita some chocolates. We also had Scottish dolls for Amanda and Bo. They all deserved their tips. Christophe then let the cat out of the bag by asking if we had rebooked - I had managed not to say but my face gave it away! He then said we had to make sure we asked for the same team again and I am going to.

We missed the final goodbye in the atrium because we spent so long chatting to everybody and then it was time to get the bags out - so glad we don't have to carry them! We weren't too late as we had to get up for immigration at 6am!

Sat 13th July

Welcome Home

Immigration was very easy and we were back in the room by 6.20am waiting for our breakfast. We were back in parrot cay and it was a lovely way to say goodbye to everybody. We were off the ship by 9am and very easily got a porter to take our cases and escort us to where the rental car vans pick you up - glad we were not trying to get Avis as there was a huge can. We were the only one in the Hertz one and it wasn't too long before we were off to Orlando in our car.

Just as we were approaching Animal Kingdom Lodge the heavens opened so we were very glad to drop the car off with the valets. I had only booked a standard room but I was incredibly lucky and got a room on the Kudu Savannah and got into it immediately. At various times we had zebra, giraffes and Thompson gazelles outside the room - I love the tommies! Because it was still raining we took the bus to the marketplace and had lunch at Puck's express - had a voucher to get 1 free!

We did some shopping and then back to AKL - I took a book to read overlooking 1 of the savannahs but then the rain eased off so I headed to the pool. I just was on the top of the slide when the lifeguard blew for the pool to be cleared but they let me down the slide!!

Enjoyed a nap before our meal at Jiko. We have eaten 3 times at Boma but wanted to try here - we had free glasses of wine with the DC card. The food was outstanding as was our server. Mum wanted the Moroccan chicken but for some reason it came with mashed potatoes - she hates those with a vengeance so she asked for cous cous instead. We all agreed that this was much more appropriate. I had the grains and veggies with tandori tofu which was excellent. We finished it off with coffee and gavua sherbet and stone fruits. To complete an excellent day we went back to the pool and hot tubs - I love how these are open 24 hours.

Sun 14th

We had breakfast at Boma which was good, lovely omelettes and pancakes to order and the fruit was great - loved the frunch. We left our luggage in storage and headed to AK. Did Dinosaur and the new Triceratops spin and I did Primeval whirl which was hilarious. Headed to Tusker House for lunch and we purchased 1 of the meal certificates. This is such a good deal and plenty of food for us 2.

We did the Bug show and then went back to AKL for a leisurely swim - I love the way they store the luggage there, it makes it so easy to pick up 1 bag so you can go swimming. We left just in time for us to check into the Vistana. This time I had a 1 bedroom and we were in the Cascades section. The apartment was lovely with a nice balcony and a full kitchen and a washer/dryer. For those of us used to a hotel room this was sheer luxury and I loved the fact we got a mid week clean and that there always seemed to be plenty of towels available.

We headed to Publix to stock up on water and soda and then went to the onsite Pizza hut for pizza.

Mon 15th

We were at the Magic Kingdom by 9.45am - this is where we miss being onsite as we have to take the monorail to get to the real entrance. This time we concentrated on doing Tomorrowland and I did Space before we both did TTA, Buzz, Snow White. We had coffee at Cosmic rays and then did Hall of Presidents and the Tiki room. After picking up fast passes for Peter Pan we had lunch at Columbia Harbour house. I had never thought of eating here always thinking it to fishy but their chicken strips were wonderful and the second floor so peaceful.

We headed back to do some shopping at LBV Factory Stores and then swimming at the Cascades pool. Tonight we had burgers at Jungle Jims - again using a coupon from the Ent Book. Then to Gooding's for a little shopping.

Tues 16th

Today we had a long lie - I think the best aspect of the annual passes is that we actually relax more. We went to the Florida Mall and started as always with coffee at Barnie's - they are just so friendly there. After browsing and of course buying we had a lovely Chinese in the food court. Mum gave me a case for my birthday and I got it here. After another coffee from Barney's and we headed back to swim at the Spa's pool.

We had an Indian at the Vista centre and then went to Magic Kingdom. We did a few rides and then watched the fireworks. Of course leaving the park was a nightmare - another reason to stay onsite. We did manage to stay awake long enough to enjoy ice cream from Walgreen's though.

Wed 17th

We were at AK by 10am and noticed a lot of cars turning round - this was the day Epcot was closed due to a power outage. We went to the Annual Pass Lounge to get seats for the Lion King - these were the best seats in the house! We sat with frozen lemonade mesmerised. After a slow walk out we headed to Wide World of sports - this was one part of WDW we had never ventured to. We had a great lunch at All Star Café again using the coupon from the Ent book. This place was very hot - how they can play baseball in that heat I do not know.

After a nap we went back to the outlets - love to shop!! Tonight we went for a great meal at Bennigan's - their baked potatoes are awesome. Their sweet menu sounded lovely but I was too full so instead had their brownie to go!

Thurs 18th

We were at MGM by 9.15am but already there was a 4o min wait for Tower of terror so time to make use of fast passes. I got them for Rock 'n' Roller Coaster and had coffee and while I did the coaster mum got passes for Tower. We also did Great Movie Ride, Voyage of the Little Mermaid and One Man's Dream. We had lunch at ABC commissary and headed back for a swim and a nap.

Finally got the trainers I was looking for - suppose I'll have to keep up the running! Then we went to Bahama Breeze to pass the 60 min wait we had great cocktails. Our tour guide, AC was hilarious and the meal was great - I love the fact you can get half portions.

Fri 19th

Today we ventured to a different part of Orlando - Winter Park. This was a lovely place. We parked on the street and had coffee and window shopped. Then we did the Scenic Boat Tour. This was so relaxing and interesting - wish we could afford a lakeside home. We did lunch at Powerhouse, lovely pita breads and a smoothie that gave mum brain freeze! At least it confirmed she had one!!

Tonight we went to Pebbles - this was such good value with the Ent Card - we also shopped at Crossroads.

Sat 20th

We started off today with breakfast at Golden Corral - this may be more expensive than other buffets but so worth it. I finished off my meal with salad and ice cream!!

We headed to the new toy shop - Once Upon a Toy - at Downtown Disney. Wish I had kids. Then we went to Epcot. We spent time in the Lounge waiting for our time on Living with the Land. Now I like this ride but no way is it worth a 45 wait. We then did Figment again and headed over to Morocco to have lunch in the Tangerine café. Before Shockwave we did American Adventure. He rain came on so we sheltered in Mexico. Once it died down a bit we headed out the park via Spaceship Earth.

This was our last trip to the Disney parks and I think we got our money worth. We had used them for 10 days in October as well as for this trip.

We finished off the night with Subs from Subway before packing the car.

Sun 21st

We checked out of the Vistana and were at the Royal Pacific (RP) by 10.10am. We are so glad we decided to valet park - we hadn't read any of the horror stories before leaving but have since we came back. The hotel is gorgeous and all the employees very pleasant. The lobby is stunning and you can really see the Island influence. The room wasn't ready which we expected but we would find plenty to do. I had out my Loew's first card but didn't expect to get anything because we had the Ent rate of $99 - before I could say anything she asked what I wanted! I saw the room number she wrote down for it to be delivered so had an idea where we would be. We went to the Orchid Court lobby for coffee and a lovely pineapple Danish. I can see why people complain about the prices but it was lovely and relaxing. We went out to take photos of the orchid court and the pool. Then I suddenly noticed the marks on my mum's T-shirt - of course that was my fault for not seeing it when see put it on so of course she had to go and buy a new one! We were going for lunch at the Trattoria at the Portofino so headed to the water taxi. There was an annual pass tour going on and we passed somebody pouring drinks. He asked if we were on the tour and we were honest and said no but he still gave us some of the rum punch - it was lovely if rather alcoholic!

Lunch at the Trattoria was lovely - we used the Ent card again which made it even cheaper. This hotel always seems so quiet but the staff couldn't be nicer - we spent ages reading the Sunday papers and enjoying a lovely meal. We had never checked out the lobby area here so did that - the restrooms have the most luxurious hand cream. We headed towards the boat but a thunderstorm started so the boats were stopped. We weren't sure how to get back but recognised one of the employees from the RPH - so we followed him! Buses run from the front of the hotel and we just hoped they would reach our hotel. We eventually got back - they only had 1 bus running and they were packed. By now our room was ready - we were in Tower 1 on the 2nd floor. Now this is the bit I didn't like - I thought I just had to go to the bell desk to get the luggage but because the valets had left the luggage in the car I had to go down there - over the soaking wet bridge! - hand over the ticket, wait for the car, have somebody take the luggage from the car, to the front of the hotel and then somebody else take it to the room. This cost a fortune in tips because I am terrified of being thought mean.

The room was lovely but I think it was a handicap room as the bathroom as huge with no vanity outside. I had only paid for a standard view but we got a great view of Hulk and Dr Doom. We could spend hours watching those and the boats going by. The coffee maker was very handy and we found room for our stuff in the mini bar. Within 10 minutes our wine was delivered - far quicker than at the Hard Rock. What we did miss was that at HR we could use the stairs to exit to the park - here the bottom door did not open. Also like others I never could get hot water in the shower

It was still raining so we couldn't go to the pool - we checked out Jake's bar but it seemed smoky so we had a glass of wine in the Orchid Lounge. After changing we headed to City Walk. I had signed up for the All Access card so had $20 on it and because my birthday had just passed they added an extra $10. So for 3 drinks, 1 burger, fajitas and a dessert we paid $6!! We managed to catch the fireworks at both parks and then took the water taxi back. I had phoned for turn down service but they never turned up.

Mon 22nd July

Last year I got 3 day tickets for Universal and we still had 2 days left - I knew we could do everything we wanted to with FOTL access in 1 day. We took the water taxi again and were at Universal Studios by 10am. We did ET, Back to the Future and MIB and then had coffee - we even remembered to use our AAA for the 10% discount. We then did the new Beetlejuice show and headed to Islands of Adventure. We rode Cat in the Hat, 1 fish, 2 fish, Poseidon's Fury and then I did Duelling dragons - both fire and ice. I still haven't plucked up courage to do Hulk! Then it was time for our usual ritual at Mythos. It is just such a relaxing break and very reasonable. We had a salad and pizza and usually would have the praline cheesecake roll ups but the server was so slow that he forgot to ask if we wanted a dessert.

We then headed to Spiderman - it is wonderful walking past a 70 min queue. This time the guy did something with our key cards and I wondered if that meant we wouldn't be able to go on it again - however we went on it at night with no apparent problems. Then I persuaded Mum to try Dr Doom - she loves Tower of Terror. Well she was really nervous and I wasn't sure - things like where to leave our stuff and her glasses. We got a great view of our hotel and I 4 - she came off and her comment was - is that it! She expected to go back up a few times!

We bought some cheesecake to go from the Crescent View Café and headed back to the hotel. We had a swim and got ready for the night. Again I phoned for turn down and I mentioned that we didn't get it last night - I was assured that we would get it that night. We went back to Islands for a walk round, did Cat again, saw the drained Popeye ride - lightning had hit it so it had had to be drained. We had dipping dots ice cream - less messy and then we went back to do Spiderman. We were going to wait for the fireworks but were hungry so headed out. We wandered around trying to decide where to eat and finally settled on the Latin Quarter. What an excellent meal. Mum had the salmon and I had the chicken as well as drinks. We finished off with coffee. We had a very slow stroll back to the hotel sad that the vacation was just about finished.

Surprise, surprise no turn down service again. I was annoyed more because we needed towels. We went to ask about a late check out - we got till 12.30and I mentioned about the turn down service. She offered to send somebody but I just asked for more towels and she promised to send somebody. Well they never turned up! I know we should have phoned to complain but I am not like that - we just phoned for more in the morning.

Tues 23rd

Due to the late check out we could take our time and have a relaxing swim. I loved the kids area and the hot tubs were great. We had lunch in Islands which was nice if pricey and then got the car loaded up - the valet guys were a hoot. Would we go back here? At that price yes but I do prefer the HR the pool and slide is better and it is slightly nearer the parks. The staff at both are so friendly.

We got the car returned and luggage checked in. No problems until we reached Dulles - the London flight was delayed by 5 hours. Great, airport was closing even the bar closed! So it was a very boring 5 hours although they did eventually get us sodas and pretzels - they even had to get blankets as the area was freezing. I kept trying to remember that theses were free flights using my air miles. I got them to rebook our connecting flight to Edinburgh.

We eventually reached London - we had great Economy Plus seats and the stewardess gave us a bottle of champagne! However when we reached check in I discovered they hadn't rebooked our seats and the flight was full. However they managed to get us 2 seats although they couldn't promise our luggage would get there. We sat next to some of the Cook Islands athletes in the lounge waiting to go to the Commonwealth Games- they were massive. We eventually reached Edinburgh, luggage was first off, picked up our own car, remembered to drive on the right side and were home by 9.30pm!

What a great vacation and I am still recovering!

Wendy MacGregor


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